Follow the Wheel

19 Nov


Where do I begin with Johnny5thWheel&thecowards? Well, first off, I guess I should alert you that the lack of spaces in the name is intentional. Beyond that, I’m not sure that words can describe their blend of music. I’m making it seem like the band combines bodily grunts with kitchen appliance percussion. It’s not that their instrumentation is completely unconventional. Johnny5thWheel&thecowards captures the ears of listeners by employing a unique style that can best be described as eccentric folk. And, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. They are damn good at it.

Johnny5thWheel&thecowards was formed in 2009 by two friends looking to shake the usual out of folk music. They found a consortium of individuals who shared a similar goal. After releasing their succesful debut EP in 2010, the band was signed by Sotones Records. They released their second album, Music To Shake’n’Shuffle To, in October of this year.

Perhaps my favorite part of the 12-track release is its unexpectedness. Most bands have a sound and their albums reflect that sound. While track one, seven, and nine will obviously be different songs, they do operate under the same genre. Not many bands tinker with smooth jazz and then transition to hardcore head-banging metal. While the difference between Johnny5thWheel&thecowards’s songs may not be so pronounced, the songs are different. The music doesn’t operate under any boundaries, and I applaud the band’s creativity and fearlessness.

It is also safe to say that you will be on your heels for the entire album. You simply will not know what is going to hit you next. Will it be macabre folk, jazz-infused pop, or a light-hearted sing-along. The versatility of the vocals, lyrics, and melody is striking. One minute you are listening to Arthur Brown and then you transition to Modest Mouse. The music is fun.

“Happy Clappy/Doom Jazz” is one of my favorite tracks off the release. It depicts a wide variety of styles in less than three minutes. Impressive. We begin with a taste of twangy surf guitar followed by a folksy riff (guitar and harmonica – nice job Ollie Mason). Try not to enjoy the chorus of this song. I did. It’s impossible. The kid-like string of sayings fly off the tongue as Biff Roxby – trombone and Garreth Knott – trumpet/tenor horn provide an upbeat staccato brass section.

“Spike” may be my favorite song from the album. I’m not sure if it is Frank Beaver’s piano, Richard Lomax’s infectious vocal, Andy Lyth’s talented drumming, or the semi-call-and-response background vocals. By the end of the song, I was singing:

“Don’t be mad with me Spike
If you knew what I was really like
You’d know I’m just messing around
Thinking about that smile”

I’m sure you will be to.

In order to get a full grasp of the album, you need to check out the entire thing here (obviously!)

You can also keep track of the band by following their Facebook, Twitter, or offficial Website.

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